Review: Gotham’s ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ Brings Back You-Know-Who

Plot: Dwight (David Dastmalchian) and his gang of Jerome followers steal his body to inflict chaos and unrest all over Gotham City. Barbara (Erin Richards) continues to enact Nygma’s (Cory Michael Smith) revenge over Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor), while Bruce (David Mazouz) and Selina (Camren Bicondova) argue over whether to give Maria (Ivana Milicevic) money to pay off a debt.

If you’re a fan of Scott Snyder’s early New 52 Batman, you’ll sure as hell love this episode. It’s clear these writers love the Joker. In all fairness though, who doesn’t? Well, maybe the writers of Suicide Squad. Okay, that was a low blow. There’s plenty to digest in this jam-packed, depraved episode of Gotham, but it was all about the Jok . . . excuse me, Jerome (Cameron Monaghan). They borrowed heavily from several Joker storylines and iterations to make the pulse of this story work. This was both a strength and weakness.

I had my doubts on bringing Jerome back to the fold, but they sure as hell sold me. There’s plenty of twists and turns along the way, but what works most of all is just how insane Dwight is. I didn’t give much thought to Dwight last week, but him confronting living in the shadow of his fallen idol was a nice little arc. There’s plenty of good digs as to why Dwight is a JV Jerome, but the lengths he goes to in order to bring faith to his nutty followers is a crazy all his own. Even though Dwight was an effective villain, a certain shadow loomed over him the entire episode.

While this plotline was extraordinarily well-conceived, they borrowed too much from The Dark Knight to the point where it got a little uncomfortable. The Dark Knight is hallowed ground not just for Batman fans, but movie fans in general. I give Gotham credit for honoring the material well, but they could have calmed down a little bit. There was too much dialogue and set-ups that were blatant Dark Knight Joker scenes. The most egregious fault of all was the voice. It’s too Heath Ledger. I’m not saying abandon the Dark Knight influences, as they were very effective, but lighten up just a tad next time.

While Jerome provided plenty of intrigue and mayhem, there was a lot more going on throughout the city. While the Nygma master plan against Oswald was a bit dry compared to last week, it still provided plenty of nasty deception with Barbara pulling the strings. The smartest element to all this was Nygma’s usage in the episode. You can feel his presence throughout, but we never saw him. You also get one absolutely badass shot of Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) looking as crazed as ever. That was a highlight.

While the Bruce/Selina shenanigans were boring and predictable, the final scene between them may have been the best part of the entire episode. Pure Batman & Catwoman. That was awesome. We also manage to get a few classic Bruce brooding at his desk moments. David Mazouz is nailing this character. He’s the reason why I hope this show runs for ten years. I want to see him become the Bruce Wayne we all know and love.

While Dark Knight overload bothered me a little bit, the highpoints of the episode were way too good to ignore. The bitter Lee Thompkins continues to be an entertaining character, as Morena Baccarin picks up right where she left off from last week. Even though next week may present more too familiar Joker territory (we’re at a carnival), I’m salivating for what happens next.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.